As I was reading the Patriots post match review in the Boston Globe on Monday I was reminded of an important lesson in life – you can try too hard! In a piece by Shalise Manza Young, she writes:” After two straight losses that featured poor execution, particularly on offense, the urgency was born. But according to receiver Deion Branch, the Patriots had fun in practice as they prepared for their AFC East showdown with the Jets. They stopped pressing.” The results were impressive a 37:16 win to the Pats.

How often do we tense up instead of relaxing? If we can only learn to enjoy what we do we can transform our performance.

Steve Jobs summarized it beautifully: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

Stressing about a project can undermine your performance. Here are 5 quick examples to inspire a relaxed, fun environment:

Negotiation: Entering a negotiating meeting of any sort in a tense state of mind is unproductive. Think of the gears analogy. You have 6 gears and at the start of discussions you are already in gear 4. Guess what happens when things get tense. You quickly hit gear 6 and ……………… On the other hand you could enter the negotiating meeting in a low gear and  maximize your relaxed frame of mind. In this condition you are able to hear the other side, remain agile to new ideas, suggest compromises and stay friendly but professional.

Selling: It’s impossible to have an engaging and compelling conversation with your prospects and customers if you are not having fun. It comes across in your tone. Instead of being relaxed there is a nervousness to your conversation. You are doing too much talking. Gaps are closed. Compare that with exceptional preparation for the call. You have an excellent picture and insights into your customer and her markets. You know your products and services back to front. You follow a thorough sales process designed to improve the performance of your customer both at a personal level and a company level. Life is good. Sales is a great job to have and you are really good at it.

Product Development: Launching products should be fun but so often they turn out to be a painful disaster. Somebody has set a ridiculous deadline, resources are thin, and non production or development departments like marketing or sales have no knowledge of the new product launch or timetable. There is such a better way. A clear vision is set out by the CEO. Products are built to a product road map that aligns with the strategy (the main reason quoted by Booz as causing productive R&D). All departments are involved in an operational plan to make the product launch a huge success including strong insights into stuff that will be used.

Alignment: I often see conflict in businesses involving great people. Tension is in the air and there is serious mistrust across the company. This is not a fun place to work. The problem in a nutshell is often misalignment. The vision is not tight enough. The translation of the vision into meaningful, connected mandates for all departments is weak and a lack of accountability is common. Initiatives are tough to pull off and the organization lacks agility. By writing a better story for the company and setting realistic goals for each department to make that story come alive then you can create a real feeling of teamwork and productive execution. People want to work in a fun place with purpose. Make it easy for them to do their best work.

Acquisitions: As you proceed down the sequence of events in buying another company (I have 25 distinct stages in mine) you should feel progressively happier after each stage. Given the track record of most acquisitions it is clear that feeling happier as the deal progresses is not how the acquisition team feel! Too often the team are sweating more instead of less. But the momentum of the deal carries you forward. Egos takeover and the false belief kicks in that it’s more expensive to pull out than carry on. Not fun.

Recruitment: You know at the first interview that the candidate is good but will he fit in. Is he fun to work with? I’m not saying employ comedians but I am saying, to ask yourself, will the on-boarding of this competent person be painful. Will he work well in teams or will he suck the oxygen out of the room. Are you about to compromise needlessly? It deeply concerns me at an interview when I suspect there is no sense of humor because in the real world, without it, when the stress levels jump, and your backs are against the wall, people often crumble. They become single threaded and panic.  A little well timed humor works a treat as a stress reliever if only for a few seconds.

Have fun at work and makes lots of money together as a team. It’s the only way.

Further link – Life at Google video